Jazz & Me

When I was about 16 or 17, someone at church told my parents that their neighbours were giving away their dog (for free), because he was being too loud. My mom and dad aren’t big fans of pets or animals, so it was only after my brother and I begged and pleaded that we went to see the dog after church.

I still remember that he was tied outside their house and that he jumped on me, almost tearing my sweater. For some strange reason, we fell in love with this brat. My brother and I insisted we take him home. So, we took him home, and my mom and dad would cautiously walk around him, trying to avoid him as much as possible lest he jumped on them. He was a very jumpy and hyper dog. We decided to name him Jazz, because we wanted to have his name be associated with some sort of music.

While my mom and dad took some time to understand and love Jazz, once they did, there was no turning back. Till this day, my dad day calls him his third child. In fact, he loves him so much that on Easter Sunday, Jazz got a fancy lamb shank after my dad asked if we could take the leftovers from our Sunday lunch for his son!

From the beginning, one thing was apparent about Jazz: he loved food. He would bark when we would eat, and he had an insatiable appetite. Even now, 11 years after we got him, he likes to sit by our side when are at the dining table.

I remember that in the early years, Jazz would do some strange things. For some reason, he loved my dad a lot; I think he knew who the master of the house was! So he would pick on things my dad used – his Bible, his glasses, his socks — and he would destroy them by eating them or tearing them apart. (He actually ate my dad’s socks, and my mom’s cell phone, which thankfully came out later, thanks to bowel movement.) The day that Jazz tore my dad’s Bible, my father got so angry he whacked him and kicked him out of the house. My brother and I ran after Jazz and brought him back home and let him sleep in our room, consoling the poor chap as he was visibly shaken. That was one of the last times he destroyed something belonging to my dad. But that doesn’t mean he stopped his mischief.

My mom had cooked about a kilogram of lamb chops, and kept it on the stove to cool. About half an hour later, we realized Jazz had jumped and managed to pull the frying pan down, and had eaten up all the meat! Once, he even ate an entire packet of oil. He would do these naughty things and then go and hide under the bed.

Stories like this are common in our house. Jazz loves eating bread and if he hears the sound of the plastic wrapper open, he will come near you and make sure you feed him.

A photo of Jazz at the beach with my dad (taken in 2010)

Jazz was also a hyperactive dog who loved running around. When we got him, we lived in a house with a garden next to it and he loved running around there. Once, when my dad took him out for a drive, he jumped out of the car without my dad’s knowledge. Thankfully, he had a leash, so my dad realised he’d jumped out and slowed down to let him back in.

We’ve taken him on our road trips from Bangalore to Nagercoil and back and from Bangalore to Kochi and back. I remember the first time we took him, we created space for him at the back with a mattress, but instead, he decided to rest on me when I fell asleep!

I moved out of my parents’ house in 2009, so now I’ve become a visitor at home. But every time I do come home, Jazz comes to me, to have me pet him, and rub his chin. He loves this and barks till I give him attention.

Something I noticed about Jazz this time when I visited home was that he’s grown very old. This hyper dog who once jumped over the wall to chase after some dogs now struggles to go for a walk or climb stairs. But one thing about him hasn’t changed – what he may lack in hyper activity he makes up for when he barks. He barks a lot when my dad is at home and isn’t giving him attention. I notice he sits at the bottom of the stairs and barks at my dad when he’s in the first floor. When my dad sits to eat, Jazz sits faithfully by him hoping that my dad would give him some dosa, or idli, or some lamb bones. When my dad is out of town, that’s the quietest you’ll see Jazz.

When Jazz first came home, my dad used to keep saying that he’s a lot like me. While I was initially amused that he would think about me this way, I began to see why.

Like Jazz, I am hyper and I love food. While I haven’t eaten 1 kg of lamb chops, I did one day finish all the crab that was made for some guests visiting home. I have jumped gates and walls to be with my friends, and I have destroyed 9 pairs of my mother’s glasses as a child. But here’s what I feel is the most important similarity – like Jazz I am a huge attention monger. When the person I consider my master isn’t giving me attention I go berserk. Last week my uncle and his family came home and Jazz insisted being seated with us. I tend to be like this – wanting to be a part of the crowd.

Jazz was adopted by us, with all his quirks and eccentricities. I’m not sure why my brother and I wanted to have him as family when he was so naughty! I too was adopted, by a heavenly father who knew before He adopted me all the mischief I would do. Instead of throwing me out of his house (like my dad tried), God would throw His son out, so I could be accepted in his place. Sometimes the silly things Jazz does remind me of my own silliness in the presence of God.

When he rolls around in the grass happy and care free I remember Psalm 23, and how our own heavenly father is leading us to relax in green pastures so I can be care free! Sometimes we can’t understand why Jazz is barking, but my heavenly master understands me perfectly well, even the times when I’m not begging for His attention. All of Jazz’s hyper activeness only reminds me of how much energy I too have to go to God, my Master, but instead tend to make masters of men and objects.

He’s much older and less hyper today, but I am grateful for Jazz. His behaviour has helped me see my own inadequacies. Despite all his mischief, we love him, and he is family.

Dying to Live

“Truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” John 12:24

Every morning I wake up, blink, and wish I could sleep till noon. It is usually still dark and at least two of our five children have joined us in our increasingly cramped queen bed for the night. I rarely feel as rested as I’d like and only coffee and the promise of a quiet moment to read my Bible wrests me from the bed and into the land of the living. I am not a “Proverbs 31 woman”.

Some days, the fight for joy and contentment and peace starts before my feet hit the floor. Other days, I wake up with renewed resolve to do better, try harder, be more joyful. Usually, I’ve messed up by breakfast. Sometimes I make it until lunch. No matter how long it takes for me to fall into failure, I always think it shouldn’t be this hard. I must be doing it wrong. Things should be easier.

I suspect I am not alone. I know some of you have found the secret to joy and contentment, but even the best of us lose sight of our purpose on earth. I think it’s because it is so incredibly unnatural. We were created for eternal life and yet throughout scripture and history, men and women far wiser and godly than I acknowledge “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”*

God made us to never die, but in our post-fall broken world, we are asked to die daily in a myriad of ways. When Eve took the fruit and ate it, when she countered God’s kindness with her own plans and purposes, she began the entropic catastrophe and everything started tending toward disorder instead of order. Everything began to die. Everything became less alive.

The truth is, I hate death and I am supposed to hate death. Death is not what I was created for. And yet, like Christ, we are called to death. From the Coptic Egyptian Christians who were martyred in cold blood this past Palm Sunday, to their families who are openly and actively choosing to forgive their murders. From the husband who patiently and lovingly moves toward his angry wife, day after day, year after year, to the mother who denies her own comforts and longings to read books and play games and change diapers. From the person who receives a stranger when all they want to do is curl up in quiet and read a book, to the person who gives out of their want.

There are so many ways to die. I suspect death will look different for each of us and may change with our life season. Dying can be brilliant and famous. Or dying can look like daily giving children the last sip, the last bite, space in the bed or even discipline when you just want to disengage. Dying doesn’t have to be martyrdom. It doesn’t have to be dramatic. But every time we die we know more of Jesus, whose whole life was lived with the thought of his death for the sake of something he valued more than himself.

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9

It is not quickly won or simple, but I’m beginning to see that the way to find life is to lose it. I’ve always known that to be true, but having to live it feels much harder. I am having to acknowledge that the battle I engage each morning is more than just a fight for contentment. It is a battle for my soul. The evil one wants to turn my eyes away from Christ and onto myself. If he can keep me thinking about me, my needs, my life, my desires, then there is no need to look to Jesus.

We are not to die for the sake of death, nor sacrifice for the sake of being sacrificial. Rather, when “we are utterly burdened beyond our strength,” when we taste a little death, whether literal or metaphorical, we learn not to “rely on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead.” It is a fight to keep my eyes on my Father, on Jesus my brother, who makes this kind of death possible. I cannot make sacrifices hoping to earn his love and work my way into a better place or better day. Rather, the sacrifice is because of his love.

In some mysterious way, the surrendering of our lives for someone or something else points to and allies us with the One who has suffered, who has died, and who also gives more grace and more life for the taking. I am not good at this, yet. I may never be. There are even days when I choose to sacrifice in some bizarre effort to earn my righteousness rather than receive it.

But on the best days, I receive the stranger. I give out of my lack, not my excess. I welcome the little one into my lap even if I would rather be alone in the quiet of the morning. I sit with the quarrelling kids and walk them through their sin and pain and shame rather than yelling at them to get it together for heaven’s sake! On the best days, I put other lives ahead of my own, and the more I die, the more I come alive to the person I was created to be; the more I know the one who died so that I might have life.

*Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Photo Credit :Unsplash

The Return of the King

This has been a particularly difficult post to write in more ways than one. Even now, as I type these words, my mind seems to be swirling with so many disjointed thoughts; I doubt one post would suffice or do justice to them. But yet, one always has to start somewhere, so here goes.

A few weeks back, while asking God to give me a revelation to help me understand Him more, He asked me to read the book of Revelation. As flabbergasted as I was about realising Revelation was a revelation, (don’t ask, it just hit me completely anew this time, the play on words, I mean!), I was a bit taken aback. I mean, yeah Lord, I want to understand you more but seriously, Revelation? It is the one book in the Bible that has always seemed a bit too much to swallow. Beasts, serpents, living creatures, angels, phew! There is only so much allegory I can handle.

Yet, since I had asked, I had to follow through. So I began with Revelation chapter one and read all the way through to the end of the book. No, this is not a bragging post about how much Bible I read but rather to help you understand that, for once, that book did not seem too far-fetched. It gripped me and kept me hooked right till the end. For the first time, I began to understand a little of the reality occurring in our world; not the physical one that we see, but the real one that is invisible. God, in His goodness, helped me comprehend, a little, what the end of the world was going to be like.

I can see some of you mentally shutting down right about now; bear with me. We’ve all heard those “fire and brimstone,” “it’s the end of the world” enthusiasts; they are the staple of humorists everywhere. If you ever want to indicate someone is truly cuckoo, you just give them a placard saying “The world will come to an end tomorrow” or something and add a crazy look in their eyes. At the risk of being labelled one of those people, let me continue.

At the end of that read through Revelation, two thoughts in particular remained that I’d like to share with you:

1. Fall down and worship Him: It was amazing how many times John, the author of the book, fell down in awe even though he was seeing a vision. Even the elders fell down every time they beheld God and His glory. Their instinctive reaction when they saw Yahweh was to fall flat on their faces. I mean, think of that for a minute. In our selfie-obsessed age, where looking our best is all-important, and our faces are a treasure we protect and preserve, can you imagine being willing to even kneel, let alone prostrate yourself? We say we should. We sing it – “We fall down, we lay our crowns, at the feet of Jesus…” – but when was the last time we actually knelt in awe? I can count on one hand the number of times when I’ve knelt in church. “It’s too embarrassing,” is the lie the devil whispers when I feel the urge to bow in adoration during worship. Or worse, “People will think I’m acting too holy. So let me just be normal, not hypocritical.” The worst thing is, I have listened to these lies and followed them, instead of realising that falling at the feet of the Alpha and the Omega is a reflection of His majesty and greatness; it’s not about me at all!

And John and the elders and the saints in Revelation weren’t kneeling, they were flat on the ground, because they couldn’t stand (literally, physically stand!) in God’s holy presence. Their act of worship was to fall down. Wow! When have I ever tried to fall down for someone? I only want to impress, make a good impression, keep my head high. But what impression can I possibly make before a holy God? He sees my filth. He sees my sins. There is no good in me. Listening to a message on Good Friday brought this home in a new way. The holy Judge, who sits in judgement, sees me, the condemned, blustering around, trying to find a way out of my death sentence, and knows there is nothing I can do to save myself. And when I, the guilty person, have the audacity to turn around and accuse the Judge of sin, He accepts the sentence. He accepts my sin. He takes my place. Because He knows there is no other way to save me. And He pays the price in full. “…Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood…” (Rev 1:5). I mean, comprehending even a fraction of that makes me want to just stay prostrate forever.

We have made God this “best friend” character, who is friendly and helpful and listens to all our problems and have forgotten that He is all that, true, but He is holy too. We have to learn to worship Him in awe again. We have to comprehend His greatness and beauty. Those angels sing the same refrain again and again – You are worthy to receive blessing and honour and glory and power and wisdom… – Words cannot do justice to who our God is. We have to stop bringing Him down to our size. We have to lift our eyes and behold Him in all His majesty.

Which leads to my second point.

2. The Lord is coming quickly: I know, I know. What else did you expect to find if you read Revelation, duh! But let me describe what I experienced just to help you understand why this is my main point and kinda the reason why I chose the title for this post (sorry, LOTR fans!).

There is a passage in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, where Mr. Beaver mentions Aslan’s name for the first time –

“They say Aslan is on the move—perhaps he has already landed,” said Beaver. And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different…. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realise that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.”

In Revelation, Jesus says multiple times, “Behold, I am coming quickly.” And each time I read that phrase, something jumped inside me. I felt everything that Lewis describes and so much more. Joy, unspeakable joy, because Jesus kept reminding me of His imminent return; and fear, because, whoa, this holy God, was coming back and I was not prepared at all ! I’ve grown up hearing about the last days and the second coming and I’d become so blasé about it, I really did not expect it to happen. I mean, I know it will happen one day. Just not in this millennium. One day, far, far, in the future when my great-great-grandchildren are on earth probably. So, imagine the slight horror I felt when I sensed God reminding me that He will come, soon. God did not tell me a date or time, so please don’t label me a nut job just yet. All I’m saying is that I began to glimpse a measure of the wonder and awe that God wants us to have about His return. We should be excited about it! The King is coming back! And this time, He will judge. And we will need to give account for our lives. But He will also wipe away every tear. And we will live with Him forever.

That is reality.

That is the truth.

Instead of the superficial, gimmicky, insincere lives we lead, feeding our craving to be constantly entertained and going to crazy lengths to create it, LIFE will begin, where there will be no more evil, no more pain, no more suffering, but there will be real joy and real love.

Lewis puts it well as he describes the great Lion, “Who said anything about safe? Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

And I just hope we understand a little of who our wonderful Lord is. We have to awaken from our complacency. We need to realise our time on earth is short. This world is hurtling towards chaos and calamity. But even as we see morals decay and society crumble, we have to stand up and speak about the only hope this world has – Jesus Christ. We have to tell the people around us what Jesus said – “Behold, I am coming quickly and My reward is with Me, to give to everyone according to his work…let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires let him take the water of life freely….Surely I am coming quickly! (Revelation 22: 12, 17, 20)

Photo Credit : Unsplash

Motherhood Diaries: Diapers, Tantrums and Experiencing God

Our older daughter turned three this month. I look at her and wonder how these three years have flown by, amazed at how this precious little one could be mine. It seemed only a little while ago that I held her in my arms for the first time. I remember being overwhelmed with emotions the first few days — love for this tiny being who I did not know what to do with and apprehension at the realisation that I was now a mother. Even today, there are times when I’m still overwhelmed at the thought of being a mother and there are other times when I feel like I can’t even remember how life was before marriage and kids.

Before my children were born, I often wondered what kind of a mother I’d be. I had these ideas of how we would treat our children and on what values they would be brought up. I had an idealistic view of parenthood and didn’t think it would be too hard. I often secretly judged other parents and vowed that I would never let my child behave “in that way” or respond to my child in anger and negativity. I looked at verses like Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it”, and thought of various things I would do so they are trained up right.

This was a plan that was doomed to fail from the start. Psalm 127:1 says:

Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain that build it. Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchmen stay awake in vain. 

Most of my parenting plans depended on my strength and on that of my husband’s. Sure, I had God in the picture, but He was mostly there as an add-on. Because of this, I have felt like a complete failure as a mother when my child has been rebellious for no reason, or when I disciplined her in anger in a way I never thought I would, or simply because no matter how much I tried, my child wouldn’t eat or obey! When my child behaved in a way that raised people’s eyebrows or made them pass unkind comments, it broke my heart and I thought I had failed. I even cried sometimes, asking God why this had to be so hard when I was trying to do it all in the ‘right way’.

While studying the book Shepherding a Child’s Heart, God revealed the flaw in my heart and in my parenting model. I was trying to shape my child in my image, to be a girl I approved of and that people applauded and loved. My parenting decisions were formed by my expectations and the approval of others. My parenting had become all about me! The book encouraged us parents to prayerfully set parenting goals and disciplining based on God’s word, focusing on the heart and not on external behaviours. I need to help my child see how sinful her heart is when she rebels or disobeys and help her understand her need for God. I need to correct my child because she is sinning against God and not because of disapproving looks from someone in the vicinity. I need her to understand that obedience must come out of a heart devoted to God and not to get out of trouble. I have been given the role of a shepherd to guide my child’s heart towards God.

One of my favourite songs as a teen was What if I stumble by DC Talk. Before the song begins, there is a line that goes:

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Him with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him with their lifestyles. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

The more I listened to it, the more I realised how important it is for my life to reflect my talk. This is one of my biggest challenges as a mother. I have two little girls who are watching my life very closely. They observe the way I talk to family, friends, and strangers. They see and imitate the way I treat those working in my house and the people serving me in different ways. They see my anger, my irritation and my mood swings. They see me love people, serve God and also see glimpses of my self-centredness.

I wonder what my children soak in when they see me. When they look back at their childhood later, what is it that they will remember? Will they remember a mother who showed them how God’s love transformed her life? Is my correction addressing their hearts or teaching them the art of performing to gain approval? Whom do they see me imitating? No one can make another human being choose or deny God, but we do play an important role in showing people who Christ is or deflecting them away from Him.

This sometimes makes me feel overburdened. How can I ensure I am responding with love, grace, truth and patience? I am powerless to do this, but the Holy Spirit helps me in my weakness and as I completely depend on Him, He gives the needed grace and strength. My kids do not need to see a super mom who is always good, kind, loving and perfect, in her own strength. They need to see a mother failing miserably on her own and depending on God for each situation. They need to see parents who rely daily on God’s grace and extend this grace to those around them.

These three years have taught me many things I would never have learned otherwise. As I struggle with being a mother, God is revealing His nature to me and chipping off the old me, making me more like Him. My husband and I are becoming increasingly aware that our experiences in life, including marriage and parenthood, are mainly to conform us to the likeness of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Motherhood has shown me God’s heart for me, a wayward child, and His unexplainable love for me. Isaiah 49:15 says:

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”

I am infinitely more precious to God than my children are to me. Motherhood has shown me that my heavenly Father’s purposes and plans for me are good, even though I often do not understand them. It has shown me that I am often like a stubborn toddler who thinks she knows best and sometimes needs to be taken away kicking and screaming. It has shown me the importance of obedience and trust, the same things I demand and expect from my kids because I love them, I know much more than them (at least for now) and I want the best for them. Motherhood has given me many opportunities to experience God’s infinite love, grace and patience with me. And I believe that this is just the beginning. There’s a lot more chipping off to do before I will be anywhere close to being like Him.

 

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Drop That Pot!

Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” John 4: 28, 29

I picked up my seven-year-old from school, her tiny frame weighed down by her pink-and-green backpack. It was time to whisk her off to swim lessons. We got off at the club’s parking lot and started making our way to the pool. I looked behind me to see my little girl, still lugging her impossibly heavy school backpack to the pool. I quickly reminded her to leave the backpack in the car and off we went to her class.

That little incident reminded me of a passage I’d been meditating on – the woman at the well in John 4. She came to draw water at mid-day, perhaps calculating that no one else would be around. Maybe she was tired of hearing the sniggers, sideways glances and the snide comments from the other women.

But then she met a Perfect Stranger who told her everything she had done. A perfect stranger. Who despite his perfection didn’t condemn her. He simply showed her that only He could fill that cavernous void within her. Full of excitement she ran back into town to speak of the encounter. Without a course in apologetics or a degree in theology, she was on her first missions’ trip!

But, first, there is one phrase in the passage that we perhaps gloss over: Leaving her water jar. The woman who had come with the intent of drawing water from the well, left her jar behind. Perhaps it was forgetfulness. Maybe, she was caught up in the emotions of the moment. I prefer to think that that phrase was not thrown in there by accident. CH Spurgeon refers to the moment where she left her pot as “blessed forgetfulness which comes of absorption in a holy design”

I love the word here: absorption. She was so captivated by Jesus that she forgot all her other problems. She forgot her past, her shame, her supposed inadequacy. She even forgot her original mission of carrying water home.

That makes us consider the pots that we may be carrying. Maybe it’s a pot of bitterness that started off mostly empty but has grown heavy over time. Maybe it’s a pot of insecurities filled with I-can’ts. Maybe it’s a pot of envy where we begrudge someone else’s happiness. Maybe it’s a pot of our own efforts to prove ourselves worthy. Maybe it’s a pot of guilt and shame that we haven’t allowed God to redeem.

Like my little girl with her giant backpack, carrying our pot has become so habitual that we have forgotten it’s even there. But it is – and, eventually, we bear the brunt of the burden. The pot slows us down and our arms get tired. The water sloshes all around and gets us messy. God is urging us to drop that pot. He wants us to give up our self-absorption for His holy design. He is waiting patiently by the well, willing to quench our thirst with streams of Living Water. But we have to unclench our grip on that pot. Jeremiah 2:13 says that we have dug up for ourselves broken cisterns that can’t hold any water, instead of allowing ourselves to be filled with the Living Water.

But Jesus invites us to lay down the things that encumber us and be completely absorbed by Him.

Heavenly Father, Thank you for convicting me about the “pot” that I need to bring to you. You know how much I need to be filled by You so I don’t go back to my old broken cisterns. Lord, fill me with those overflowing streams of living water. In Jesus’ name. Amen

Photo Credit : Unsplash

Desperate (Psalm 63)

Recently, or rather over the past year, I’ve been pushed to a particular place. I am generally a very dramatic, emotional girl, but in this place suddenly I find more drama than I’m comfortable with, and more intensity than I knew I was capable of. I don’t like being in this place, because it makes me feel needy and defeated. It’s no longer like it used to be, a couple of years ago. A simple prayer doesn’t make it better, calling a friend doesn’t take away the pain, even scripture takes time to sink in. I feel like I am the only waitress in a packed restaurant, having to pick everyone’s plates and serve the whole restaurant – all at once, without a break.

Life has been harder than ever, and I’ve been more desperate than ever. I’ve lived in this place of desperation for so long now, I can barely remember what is was like before this.

At first I was very uncomfortable here. I would get scared and panic. I don’t deserve it, but I do have a wonderful community, and one that is not afraid to step into my panic, or invite me into their own. Slowly I realised that there was a safe place to fall, to talk about the hard things, the heart of things. But most of all, a safe place to consider and to wrestle with truths: Christ is our help, Christ is our hope, Christ sees it all.

But the desperation didn’t stop, because there was so much more to be lost. The more I lost, the more I panicked. My soul raged with questions, and these questions, I could not dare utter to another soul. My prayers became screams. I could have cried all the waters in the world, but it wouldn’t be enough. This was not a place I could invite anybody. Desperate, so desperate.

Verse 1:

You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.

With reckless abandon, I asked and I pleaded. I had never dared to be this honest with God, but I pleaded with the only one who could meet me in that place – and He did. And He wasn’t just with me, He was hurting with me. I had no idea how much He could hurt with me. I had no idea how much He wept with me. Why don’t we have more posters, more books, more songs about Jesus weeping with us? Finding Him there, in that pain with me, my eyes were opened to His deep, perfect love for me. Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus. Unless we see how much is lost, and how much there is to be lost, we don’t know how much can be found in Him.

Verses 2-3:

I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.

For a moment I thought I could get used to this place of desperation. Until the next moment, when my soul was hit afresh, and I was so tired. My own wickedness overwhelmed me. I was tired of dealing with my own insecurities, dealing with my own heart. I did want to see change, but I felt utterly drained of resources to keep trying. How long, O God? Answer me. My questions increased, and in my desperation, I began to fast – quite extremely.  While at it, wrestling, I found what I needed. It wasn’t answers, or direction, or basically anything I had imagined. It was a taste, just a drop of the satisfaction I can have only in Christ. I didn’t need to starve myself, I didn’t need to beg or plead, I could just take it for granted. There was something that could satisfy this desperation, and I had tasted it. Christ truly is enough.

Verses 4-5:

I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

Times of desperation are often preceded by times of loss. Sometimes this loss is of things that are clearly unhelpful to us. Like habits and sin patterns and places and relationships that are toxic. In such cases it is so much easier to see the rationale and to understand why it is good for them to be taken away. It’s not hard to reconcile with such loss. But what about family – the one that sat around the table and said grace together? What about that friend who was closer than a sister? What about jobs that allowed us to carry out the calling that God himself placed in our hearts? What about marriages that God had bound together? What about health, used sincerely to serve God? It really is more baffling, and scary when it seems like what is lost had some impression of Christ’s favour. Or at the very least within what we call common grace. But sometimes these “good places” are the easiest ones to make hiding places, dwelling places. And when they fall to the ground, when they are lost, we are back to the desperate place.

I’ve heard a lot of thuds, seen a lot of collapses over this past year. It’s been a perfect crescendo. I know that as there are all kinds of seasons and maybe tomorrow I will feel stop feeling like a frenzied waitress in a restaurant, but like a shepherd girl strolling along quiet, still waters. But this I know: no matter, the landscape, the calling, or how things feel and look, I will be desperate. Dramatically, or very very quietly, I will be desperate.

But even to know I am desperate, is a revelation. The childlike honesty with Christ is now part of our relationship. The friends who have watched and walked with me, are witnesses. I reflect on the year gone by and I remember these things. I remember the One who has been my only help. Like the Psalmist, this thirsty soul now clings. It clings because it has found the only One who truly fills.

Verses 6-8:

On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I cling onto you, your right hand upholds me.

But I don’t see it all, it doesn’t all fit together or make sense. I see glimpses. I see in part how much Christ hurts with me, I see a drop of his measureless love for me. I feel a touch of His healing hand, I only taste of the sweetness to be satisfied in Him. I see glimpses in the desperate place.

So let there be loss, and let me be desperate. Bring me back to that desperate place. What if glimpse by glimpse, I will find my way home?  What if glimpse by glimpse, I will see His face? Oh, let me desperate, until I see face to face.

 

 

Photo Credit: Unsplash

The Junk Food Addiction

I started dating in my mid-teens. I made several silly choices which led me to experience physical and emotional relationships waaay before my time. I have a past which is dicey and even as I write this, I am scared of what you will think of me. Will you judge me and write me off as a “girl with a past”?

A few days ago, my dog was at home and hungry. While no one was watching, he managed to find the dust bin, pull it down and finish eating the garbage inside it (fish bones, cucumber and carrot peels and I don’t know what else). After eating that junk, when I gave him rice and milk, he refused to eat it. His stomach was filled with the garbage he had just consumed.

I didn’t have the stomach for a committed, Christ-centered relationship because I had force-fed myself garbage in a hurry. I was hungry so grabbed at whatever was nearest to me, just to fill that physical hunger.

It got so bad that I kept running back to garbage because I felt I wouldn’t be able to digest the good food laid out for me.

In a sermon that my pastor preached on sex, he said that the world’s view of sex is that sex is just an appetite, and the world believes it is legitimate to satisfy that appetite. I lived by this worldview for a long time.

In today’s self-consumed culture, being in an open relationship is celebrated over monogamy. Being vulnerable to one person for the rest of one’s life through marriage is considered weak. Even if a person wants to spend the rest of their life with one other person, there’s often the idea of “testing the goods” or “testing out the package before marriage” that accompanies the willingness to commit. Fulfilling one’s appetite for sex is often encouraged and even celebrated.

I lived my life like my dog, feeding my appetite with junk. I enjoyed being in relationships before marriage because I thought they were the real deal, an easy way of satisfying my hunger. Watching marriages fall apart around me made me smirk at the thought of waiting for my life partner and walk away in disgust at the thought of starving myself from whatever was available around me. “Why should I wait?” I thought to myself, and helped myself to whatever I could get my hands on.

But after a point, when you feed yourself so much junk, it begins to show. For me, I was able to hide it beautifully from many people (specially my Church friends). But, I couldn’t hide it from myself, and more importantly from God.

I was taught to think of Jesus as a condemning person, who would judge and expose me. So, as a response I went running far away from Christ. But this Jesus, who I had imagined would be judging me, didn’t quite do all that.

Firstly, he accepted me, with my junk food addiction and all. Secondly, he touched my life and my tastes. He helped me overcome my addiction to this junk and led me to a feast (which I wish I had waited for) and he satiates me such that my appetite has changed. The only reason I got out of this junk food addiction to physical relationships was because of Jesus Christ. It happened slowly and gradually, but he brought me out of it.

I love the way Jesus deals with women in the Bible. From interacting with women considered to have loose morals, to defending an adulteress, Jesus seemed to have protected and defended women from various backgrounds, instead of condemning them. He even had great friendships with women (read about Mary and Martha, and their brother Lazarus, who Jesus dearly loved)!

I remember reading about Jesus and how he dealt with the Samaritan woman at the well, not condemning her (John 4:1–38) or how when an adulteress was brought to him to be stoned (John 8: 1 – 11) he said “Go and sin no more” or when a sinful woman washed His feet (Luke 7:36–50), He forgave her sins. THIS JESUS! This is the Jesus I needed to get acquainted with, someone who didn’t have a problem interacting with someone like me, but at the same time, when His life crossed paths with mine, does not let me go but instead transforms my very identity. This Jesus was willing to associate with a promiscuous person like me, and love me enough to die for me to be called faithful.

The Bible is rich with imagery of adulteresses and promiscuous women. This imagery is often used as a metaphor for Israel’s unfaithfulness towards God. If anything, my broken past served one purpose – it made me understand how unfaithful I had been to God when I had chosen to indulge in junk. It was cheating on God in a way I can’t justify. In a way, I feel I was also being unfaithful to my husband, whom I hadn’t waited for patiently. But like Christ, the perfect and eternal groom, my imperfect present groom forgave me and stopped looking at me as my past. Christ doesn’t see me as the person I was when I was indulging in my appetite, but views me as God would view Him – perfect, cleansed, and free from guilt.

How do I view sex now? As someone who is married, I am in danger of operating out of my past self, satisfying my craving when I feel like it. But my pastor once said that, while the Bible isn’t permissive about sex, it isn’t prudish about it either. The Bible demolishes both these notions of sex and provides a third way – the gospel view of sex, where sex is not about self-gratification, but sex between husband and wife is about radical self-donation.

I have found that within the covenant of marriage, sex is beautiful. While it can be used for selfish gratification within marriage as much as outside of marriage, it is only within marriage that I saw sex not as an object or an end, but as a way to radically donate myself.

I wish I had known of this when I was younger, and I wish someone had sat me down, had an honest conversation with me and told me to wait, that the buffet meal awaiting me post-marriage is worth waiting for. What I did was indulge in a McDonald’s meal when what was waiting for me was a grand and lavish buffet at the most expensive banquet in the world – one where the banquet was paid for with the price of my eternal groom. But, despite my mistake, I see how Christ is beautifully redeeming and rectifying my sins by His own radical donation of His body. I am no longer a slave to the mistakes of my past. I have been redeemed.

 

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Numbing the Pain

This time last year my family was in the throes of a fresh, deep grief. In mid-March, 2016, my step-dad died suddenly from a heart attack in my parents’ home. He was alone and at the end of what would be his final battle with an enemy he had been fighting since his younger years—alcoholism.

I’m not in any way medically trained, but I know alcohol and smoking played a key role in his early death. He was told repeatedly to stop drinking and to give up cigarettes, and would, for a time, only to go back to the vice that had a grip on him so strong he was unable to break it on his own. The tragedy was that he insisted, even in the final conversation we had, that he could beat it on his own, that he didn’t need help to defeat the monster. With grit and determination, he was going to get himself straightened out.

He’d started drinking heavily at the end of February, so my mother, who’d had enough of these episodes, had gone to stay with friends. Her hope was that it would push him to seek help if she wasn’t present to enable his behavior. I spoke to him on a Sunday morning in March and pleaded with him to let us come and get him. He said no and insisted that he had everything under control. The following morning I was crumpled to the ground sobbing as my god-mother told me he had been found dead—the battle now over for him, and the grief just beginning for those left behind.

Before my mother and step-dad married, I had little idea about alcoholism. And actually it wouldn’t be until many years after their marriage I saw any signs myself of the disease. He had many months at a time where he never reached for the bottle to ease his pain, or help him forget the struggles that occur in everyday life. But what I didn’t understand then (that I understand now) is that alcoholism doesn’t simply leave a person and never return; it is a constant temptation that must be fought and dealt with on all levels—physically and emotionally, typically for the rest of one’s life.

He started drinking at a young age, and that had become his coping mechanism, hardwired into his psyche as a way to deal with the stress of life. I don’t pretend to fully understand how his mind processed anxiety, fear, stress, and insecurities. But as he grew older, his method of dealing with things by using alcohol became a detriment to his physical health and relationships.

As I think about his story—our story—I wonder how much is appropriate to share. Certainly, there were people in his life that had no idea of this struggle and would be offended that I even mention it—hoping to preserve some ideal they have in their minds about who he was. I don’t think his struggles diminish anything wonderful about who he was as a person—a husband, step-dad, and grandfather—but are simply the reality in which we lived. His story is now my story as we navigate life in the shadow of loss.

He still got up early in the mornings for most of his marriage to my mom and read his devotions and Bible. He thought of his grandkids and making memories with them that would last a lifetime. He still poured his sweat and resources into rebuilding classic cars. So much of life looked completely normal and good. But his quiet addiction continued to loom in the background, even when times were good. This was an area where outside help was not wanted, and where God had provided my step-dad with opportunity after opportunity to turn to Him and away from alcohol forever. But he always maintained he could handle it—he only needed to try harder and he would be fine.

Of course, this is not just the story of one man and his struggles with alcohol. Any of us can be guilty of using something to numb us when the pains of life become great—medications, porn, television, drugs, food, etc. When we depend on anything but Jesus to meet our deepest needs and look to the world to fill in the voids, we will always find a deficient substitute that often leads us down paths we were never meant to go.

So today, if you are struggling with any form of addiction or lack of control in an area of your life that is harmful to you, I urge you to seek help now. Lean on those closest to you and share your struggles and get whatever counselling, therapy, or support you need to live healthy and whole. Believe the truth that Christ has created you for a purpose and you are of infinite value to Him. Stigmas attached to addiction leave people feeling full of shame, which only perpetuates the hold it has on your life. But in Christ, we are meant to live in freedom.

I wish that my stepfather had embraced that truth with his life and realised how precious he was to Christ. The solace we have now is that he has perfect peace and is now walking with the Father, finally and completely free from addiction.

%d bloggers like this: